University of Botswana History Department
Electronic texts

David Livingstone;
Missionary Travels

Chapter 15

Contents page

Introduction etc. | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17 | Chapter 18 | Chapter 19 | Chapter 20 | Chapter 21 | Chapter 22 | Chapter 23 | Chapter 24 | Chapter 25 | Chapter 26 | Chapter 27 | Chapter 28 | Chapter 29 | Chapter 30 | Chapter 31 | Chapter 32 | Appendices etc.

History Home Page  |  Site Index  |  Electronic texts index

Chapter 15.

  Message to Masiko, the Barotse Chief, regarding the Captives --
  Navigation of the Leeambye -- Capabilities of this District --
  The Leeba -- Flowers and Bees -- Buffalo-hunt -- Field for a Botanist --
  Young Alligators; their savage Nature -- Suspicion of the Balonda --
  Sekelenke's Present -- A Man and his two Wives -- Hunters --
  Message from Manenko, a female Chief -- Mambari Traders -- A Dream --
  Sheakondo and his People -- Teeth-filing -- Desire for Butter --
  Interview with Nyamoana, another female Chief -- Court Etiquette --
  Hair versus Wool -- Increase of Superstition -- Arrival of Manenko;
  her Appearance and Husband -- Mode of Salutation -- Anklets --
  Embassy, with a Present from Masiko -- Roast Beef -- Manioc --
  Magic Lantern -- Manenko an accomplished Scold:  compels us to wait --
  Unsuccessful Zebra-hunt.

On the 27th of December we were at the confluence of the Leeba and Leeambye
(lat. 14d 10' 52" S., long. 23d 35' 40" E.).  Masiko, the Barotse chief,
for whom we had some captives, lived nearly due east of this point.  They were
two little boys, a little girl, a young man, and two middle-aged women.
One of these was a member of a Babimpe tribe, who knock out
both upper and lower front teeth as a distinction.  As we had been informed
by the captives on the previous Sunday that Masiko was in the habit of seizing
all orphans, and those who have no powerful friend in the tribe
whose protection they can claim, and selling them for clothing to the Mambari,
we thought the objection of the women to go first to his town
before seeing their friends quite reasonable, and resolved to send
a party of our own people to see them safely among their relatives.
I told the captive young man to inform Masiko that he was very unlike
his father Santuru, who had refused to sell his people to Mambari.
He will probably be afraid to deliver such a message himself,
but it is meant for his people, and they will circulate it pretty widely,
and Masiko may yet feel a little pressure from without.  We sent Mosantu,
a Batoka man, and his companions, with the captives.  The Barotse whom we had
were unwilling to go to Masiko, since they owe him allegiance
as the son of Santuru, and while they continue with the Makololo
are considered rebels.  The message by Mosantu was, that "I was sorry to find
that Santuru had not borne a wiser son.  Santuru loved to govern men,
but Masiko wanted to govern wild beasts only, as he sold his people
to the Mambari;" adding an explanation of the return of the captives,
and an injunction to him to live in peace, and prevent his people kidnapping
the children and canoes of the Makololo, as a continuance in these deeds
would lead to war, which I wished to prevent.  He was also instructed to say,
if Masiko wanted fuller explanation of my views, he must send a sensible man
to talk with me at the first town of the Balonda, to which I was
about to proceed.

We ferried Mosantu over to the left bank of the Leeba.
The journey required five days, but it could not have been at a quicker rate
than ten or twelve miles per day; the children were between
seven and eight years of age, and unable to walk fast in a hot sun.

Leaving Mosantu to pursue his course, we shall take but one glance
down the river, which we are now about to leave, for it comes at this point
from the eastward, and our course is to be directed to the northwest,
as we mean to go to Loanda in Angola.  From the confluence,
where we now are, down to Mosioatunya, there are many long reaches,
where a vessel equal to the Thames steamers plying between the bridges
could run as freely as they do on the Thames.  It is often, even here,
as broad as that river at London Bridge, but, without accurate
measurement of the depth, one could not say which contained most water.
There are, however, many and serious obstacles to a continued navigation
for hundreds of miles at a stretch.  About ten miles below
the confluence of the Loeti, for instance, there are many large sand-banks
in the stream; then you have a hundred miles to the River Simah,
where a Thames steamer could ply at all times of the year;
but, again, the space between Simah and Katima-molelo
has five or six rapids with cataracts, one of which, Gonye,
could not be passed at any time without portage.  Between these rapids
there are reaches of still, deep water, of several miles in length.
Beyond Katima-molelo to the confluence of the Chobe you have nearly
a hundred miles again, of a river capable of being navigated in the same way
as in the Barotse valley.

Now I do not say that this part of the river presents a very inviting prospect
for extemporaneous European enterprise; but when we have a pathway
which requires only the formation of portages to make it equal to our canals
for hundreds of miles, where the philosophers supposed there was naught
but an extensive sandy desert, we must confess that the future partakes
at least of the elements of hope.  My deliberate conviction was and is
that the part of the country indicated is as capable of supporting
millions of inhabitants as it is of its thousands.  The grass
of the Barotse valley, for instance, is such a densely-matted mass that,
when "laid", the stalks bear each other up, so that one feels as if walking
on the sheaves of a hay-stack, and the leches nestle under it
to bring forth their young.  The soil which produces this,
if placed under the plow, instead of being mere pasturage,
would yield grain sufficient to feed vast multitudes.

We now began to ascend the Leeba.  The water is black in color
as compared with the main stream, which here assumes the name of Kabompo.
The Leeba flows placidly, and, unlike the parent river,
receives numbers of little rivulets from both sides.  It winds slowly
through the most charming meadows, each of which has either
a soft, sedgy centre, large pond, or trickling rill down the middle.
The trees are now covered with a profusion of the freshest foliage,
and seem planted in groups of such pleasant, graceful outline
that art could give no additional charm.  The grass, which had been burned off
and was growing again after the rains, was short and green,
and all the scenery so like that of a carefully-tended gentleman's park,
that one is scarcely reminded that the surrounding region
is in the hands of simple nature alone.  I suspect that the level meadows
are inundated annually, for the spots on which the trees stand
are elevated three or four feet above them, and these elevations,
being of different shapes, give the strange variety of outline
of the park-like woods.  Numbers of a fresh-water shell are scattered
all over these valleys.  The elevations, as I have observed elsewhere,
are of a soft, sandy soil, and the meadows of black, rich alluvial loam.
There are many beautiful flowers, and many bees to sip their nectar.
We found plenty of honey in the woods, and saw the stages on which
the Balonda dry their meat, when they come down to hunt and gather
the produce of the wild hives.  In one part we came upon
groups of lofty trees as straight as masts, with festoons of orchilla-weed
hanging from the branches.  This, which is used as a dye-stuff,
is found nowhere in the dry country to the south.  It prefers
the humid climate near the west coast.

A large buffalo was wounded, and ran into the thickest part of the forest,
bleeding profusely.  The young men went on his trail;
and, though the vegetation was so dense that no one could have run
more than a few yards, most of them went along quite carelessly,
picking and eating a fruit of the melon family called Mponko.
When the animal heard them approach he always fled,
shifting his stand and doubling on his course in the most cunning manner.
In other cases I have known them to turn back to a point
a few yards from their own trail, and then lie down in a hollow
waiting for the hunter to come up.  Though a heavy, lumbering-looking animal,
his charge is then rapid and terrific.  More accidents happen
by the buffalo and the black rhinoceros than by the lion.
Though all are aware of the mischievous nature of the buffalo when wounded,
our young men went after him quite carelessly.  They never lose
their presence of mind, but, as a buffalo charges back in a forest,
dart dexterously out of his way behind a tree, and, wheeling round,
stab him as he passes.

A tree in flower brought the pleasant fragrance of hawthorn hedges
back to memory; its leaves, flowers, perfumes, and fruit
resembled those of the hawthorn, only the flowers were as large as dog-roses,
and the "haws" like boys' marbles.  Here the flowers smell sweetly,
while few in the south emit any scent at all, or only a nauseous odor.
A botanist would find a rich harvest on the banks of the Leeba.
This would be his best season, for the flowers all run rapidly to seed,
and then insects of every shape spring into existence to devour them.
The climbing plants display great vigor of growth, being not only
thick in the trunk, but also at the very point, in the manner of
quickly-growing asparagus.  The maroro or malolo now appears,
and is abundant in many parts between this and Angola.  It is a small bush
with a yellow fruit, and in its appearance a dwarf "anona".
The taste is sweet, and the fruit is wholesome:  it is full of seeds,
like the custard-apple.

On the 28th we slept at a spot on the right bank from which had just emerged
two broods of alligators.  We had seen many young ones as we came up,
so this seems to be their time of coming forth from the nests,
for we saw them sunning themselves on sand-banks in company with the old ones.
We made our fire in one of the deserted nests, which were strewed all over
with the broken shells.  At the Zouga we saw sixty eggs taken
out of one such nest alone.  They are about the size of those of a goose,
only the eggs of the alligator are of the same diameter at both ends,
and the white shell is partially elastic, from having a strong
internal membrane and but little lime in its composition.  The distance
from the water was about ten feet, and there were evidences of the same place
having been used for a similar purpose in former years.  A broad path led up
from the water to the nest, and the dam, it was said by my companions,
after depositing the eggs, covers them up, and returns afterward
to assist the young out of the place of confinement and out of the egg.
She leads them to the edge of the water, and then leaves them
to catch small fish for themselves.  Assistance to come forth
seems necessary, for here, besides the tough membrane of the shell,
they had four inches of earth upon them; but they do not require
immediate aid for food, because they all retain a portion of yolk,
equal to that of a hen's egg, in a membrane in the abdomen,
as a stock of nutriment, while only beginning independent existence
by catching fish.  Fish is the principal food of both small and large,
and they are much assisted in catching them by their broad, scaly tails.
Sometimes an alligator, viewing a man in the water from the opposite bank,
rushes across the stream with wonderful agility, as is seen
by the high ripple he makes on the surface caused by his rapid motion
at the bottom; but in general they act by stealth, sinking underneath
as soon as they see man.  They seldom leave the water to catch prey,
but often come out by day to enjoy the pleasure of basking in the sun.
In walking along the bank of the Zouga once, a small one,
about three feet long, made a dash at my feet, and caused me
to rush quickly in another direction; but this is unusual,
for I never heard of a similar case.  A wounded leche,
chased into any of the lagoons in the Barotse valley,
or a man or dog going in for the purpose of bringing out a dead one,
is almost sure to be seized, though the alligators may not appear
on the surface.  When employed in looking for food they keep out of sight;
they fish chiefly by night.  When eating, they make a loud, champing noise,
which when once heard is never forgotten.

The young, which had come out of the nests where we spent the night,
did not appear wary; they were about ten inches long, with yellow eyes,
and pupil merely a perpendicular slit.  They were all marked
with transverse slips of pale green and brown, half an inch broad.
When speared, they bit the weapon savagely, though their teeth
were but partially developed, uttering at the same time a sharp bark
like that of a whelp when it first begins to use its voice.
I could not ascertain whether the dam devours them, as reported,
or whether the ichneumon has the same reputation here as in Egypt.
Probably the Barotse and Bayeiye would not look upon it as a benefactor;
they prefer to eat the eggs themselves, and be their own ichneumons.
The white of the egg does not coagulate, but the yolk does,
and this is the only part eaten.

As the population increases, the alligators will decrease, for their nests
will be oftener found; the principal check on their inordinate multiplication
seems to be man.  They are more savage and commit more mischief
in the Leeambye than in any other river.  After dancing long
in the moonlight nights, young men run down to the water to wash off the dust
and cool themselves before going to bed, and are thus often carried away.
One wonders they are not afraid; but the fact is, they have as little
sense of danger impending over them as the hare has when not actually pursued
by the hound, and in many rencounters, in which they escape,
they had not time to be afraid, and only laugh at the circumstance afterward:
there is a want of calm reflection.  In many cases, not referred to
in this book, I feel more horror now in thinking on dangers I have run
than I did at the time of their occurrence.

When we reached the part of the river opposite to the village of Manenko,
the first female chief whom we encountered, two of the people called Balunda,
or Balonda, came to us in their little canoe.  From them we learned
that Kolimbota, one of our party, who had been in the habit of visiting
these parts, was believed by the Balonda to have acted as a guide
to the marauders under Lerimo, whose captives we were now returning.
They very naturally suspected this, from the facility with which
their villages had been found, and, as they had since removed them
to some distance from the river, they were unwilling to lead us
to their places of concealment.  We were in bad repute, but,
having a captive boy and girl to show in evidence of Sekeletu and ourselves
not being partakers in the guilt of inferior men, I could freely express
my desire that all should live in peace.  They evidently felt
that I ought to have taught the Makololo first, before coming to them,
for they remarked that what I advanced was very good, but guilt lay
at the door of the Makololo for disturbing the previously existing peace.
They then went away to report us to Manenko.

When the strangers visited us again in the evening, they were accompanied
by a number of the people of an Ambonda chief named Sekelenke.
The Ambonda live far to the N.W.; their language, the Bonda,
is the common dialect in Angola.  Sekelenke had fled, and was now living
with his village as a vassal of Masiko.  As notices of such men
will perhaps convey the best idea of the state of the inhabitants
to the reader, I shall hereafter allude to the conduct of Sekelenke,
whom I at present only introduce.  Sekelenke had gone with his villagers
to hunt elephants on the right bank of the Leeba, and was now on his way
back to Masiko.  He sent me a dish of boiled zebra's flesh, and a request
that I should lend him a canoe to ferry his wives and family across the river
to the bank on which we were encamped.  Many of Sekelenke's people came
to salute the first white man they ever had an opportunity of seeing;
but Sekelenke himself did not come near.  We heard he was offended
with some of his people for letting me know he was among the company.  He said
that I should be displeased with him for not coming and making some present.
This was the only instance in which I was shunned in this quarter.

As it would have been impolitic to pass Manenko, or any chief,
without at least showing so much respect as to call and explain
the objects of our passing through the country, we waited two entire days
for the return of the messengers to Manenko; and as I could not hurry matters,
I went into the adjacent country to search for meat for the camp.

The country is furnished largely with forest, having occasionally open lawns
covered with grass, not in tufts as in the south, but so closely planted that
one can not see the soil.  We came upon a man and his two wives and children,
burning coarse rushes and the stalks of tsitla, growing in a brackish marsh,
in order to extract a kind of salt from the ashes.  They make
a funnel of branches of trees, and line it with grass rope,
twisted round until it is, as it were, a beehive-roof inverted.
The ashes are put into water, in a calabash, and then it is allowed
to percolate through the small hole in the bottom and through the grass.
When this water is evaporated in the sun, it yields sufficient salt
to form a relish with food.  The women and children fled with precipitation,
but we sat down at a distance, and allowed the man time to gain
courage enough to speak.  He, however, trembled excessively
at the apparition before him; but when we explained that our object
was to hunt game, and not men, he became calm, and called back his wives.
We soon afterward came to another party on the same errand with ourselves.
The man had a bow about six feet long, and iron-headed arrows about
thirty inches in length; he had also wooden arrows neatly barbed, to shoot
in cases where he might not be quite certain of recovering them again.
We soon afterward got a zebra, and gave our hunting acquaintances
such a liberal share that we soon became friends.  All whom we saw that day
then came with us to the encampment to beg a little meat;
and as they have so little salt, I have no doubt they felt grateful
for what we gave.

Sekelenke and his people, twenty-four in number, defiled past our camp
carrying large bundles of dried elephants' meat.  Most of them came
to say good-by, and Sekelenke himself sent to say that he had gone to visit
a wife living in the village of Manenko.  It was a mere African manoeuvre
to gain information, and not commit himself to either one line of action
or another with respect to our visit.  As he was probably
in the party before us, I replied that it was all right,
and when my people came up from Masiko I would go to my wife too.
Another zebra came to our camp, and, as we had friends near, it was shot.
It was the `Equus montanus', though the country is perfectly flat,
and was finely marked down to the feet, as all the zebras are in these parts.

To our first message, offering a visit of explanation to Manenko,
we got an answer, with a basket of manioc roots, that we must remain
where we were till she should visit us.  Having waited two days already
for her, other messengers arrived with orders for me to come to her.
After four days of rains and negotiation, I declined going at all,
and proceeded up the river to the small stream Makondo (lat. 13d 23' 12" S.),
which enters the Leeba from the east, and is between twenty and thirty
yards broad.

JANUARY 1ST, 1854.  We had heavy rains almost every day; indeed,
the rainy season had fairly set in.  Baskets of the purple fruit called mawa
were frequently brought to us by the villagers; not for sale,
but from a belief that their chiefs would be pleased to hear
that they had treated us well; we gave them pieces of meat in return.

When crossing at the confluence of the Leeba and Makondo,
one of my men picked up a bit of a steel watch-chain of English manufacture,
and we were informed that this was the spot where the Mambari cross
in coming to Masiko.  Their visits explain why Sekelenke kept his tusks
so carefully.  These Mambari are very enterprising merchants:
when they mean to trade with a town, they deliberately begin the affair
by building huts, as if they knew that little business could be transacted
without a liberal allowance of time for palaver.  They bring Manchester goods
into the heart of Africa; these cotton prints look so wonderful
that the Makololo could not believe them to be the work of mortal hands.
On questioning the Mambari they were answered that English manufactures
came out of the sea, and beads were gathered on its shore.
To Africans our cotton mills are fairy dreams.  "How can the irons spin,
weave, and print so beautifully?"  Our country is like what Taprobane was
to our ancestors -- a strange realm of light, whence came the diamond,
muslin, and peacocks; an attempt at explanation of our manufactures
usually elicits the expression, "Truly ye are gods!"

When about to leave the Makondo, one of my men had dreamed that Mosantu
was shut up a prisoner in a stockade:  this dream depressed the spirits
of the whole party, and when I came out of my little tent in the morning,
they were sitting the pictures of abject sorrow.  I asked if we were
to be guided by dreams, or by the authority I derived from Sekeletu,
and ordered them to load the boats at once; they seemed ashamed to confess
their fears; the Makololo picked up courage and upbraided the others
for having such superstitious views, and said this was always their way;
if even a certain bird called to them, they would turn back
from an enterprise, saying it was unlucky.  They entered the canoes at last,
and were the better of a little scolding for being inclined
to put dreams before authority.  It rained all the morning, but about eleven
we reached the village of Sheakondo, on a small stream named Lonkonye.
We sent a message to the head man, who soon appeared with two wives,
bearing handsome presents of manioc:  Sheakondo could speak
the language of the Barotse well, and seemed awestruck when told
some of the "words of God".  He manifested no fear, always spoke frankly,
and when he made an asseveration, did so by simply pointing up to the sky
above him.  The Balonda cultivate the manioc or cassava extensively;
also dura, ground-nuts, beans, maize, sweet potatoes, and yams,
here called "lekoto", but as yet we see only the outlying villages.

The people who came with Sheakondo to our bivouac had their teeth filed
to a point by way of beautifying them, though those which were left untouched
were always the whitest; they are generally tattooed in various parts,
but chiefly on the abdomen:  the skin is raised in small elevated cicatrices,
each nearly half an inch long and a quarter of an inch in diameter,
so that a number of them may constitute a star, or other device.
The dark color of the skin prevents any coloring matter being deposited
in these figures, but they love much to have the whole surface of their bodies
anointed with a comfortable varnish of oil.  In their unassisted state
they depend on supplies of oil from the Palma Christi, or castor-oil plant,
or from various other oliferous seeds, but they are all
excessively fond of clarified butter or ox fat.  Sheakondo's old wife
presented some manioc roots, and then politely requested
to be anointed with butter:  as I had been bountifully supplied
by the Makololo, I gave her as much as would suffice, and as they have
little clothing, I can readily believe that she felt her comfort
greatly enhanced thereby.

The favorite wife, who was also present, was equally anxious for butter.
She had a profusion of iron rings on her ankles, to which were attached
little pieces of sheet iron, to enable her to make a tinkling as she walked
in her mincing African style; the same thing is thought pretty
by our own dragoons in walking jauntingly.

We had so much rain and cloud that I could not get a single observation
for either longitude or latitude for a fortnight.  Yet the Leeba
does not show any great rise, nor is the water in the least discolored.
It is slightly black, from the number of mossy rills which fall into it.
It has remarkably few birds and fish, while the Leeambye swarms with both.
It is noticeable that alligators here possess more of the fear of man
than in the Leeambye.  The Balonda have taught them, by their poisoned arrows,
to keep out of sight.  We did not see one basking in the sun.
The Balonda set so many little traps for birds that few appear.
I observed, however, many (to me) new small birds of song on its banks.
More rain has been falling in the east than here, for the Leeambye
was rising fast and working against the sandy banks so vigorously
that a slight yellow tinge was perceptible in it.

One of our men was bitten by a non-venomous serpent, and of course
felt no harm.  The Barotse concluded that this was owing to many of them
being present and seeing it, as if the sight of human eyes
could dissolve the poison and act as a charm.

On the 6th of January we reached the village of another female chief,
named Nyamoana, who is said to be the mother of Manenko,
and sister of Shinte or Kabompo, the greatest Balonda chief
in this part of the country.  Her people had but recently come
to the present locality, and had erected only twenty huts.
Her husband, Samoana, was clothed in a kilt of green and red baize,
and was armed with a spear and a broadsword of antique form,
about eighteen inches long and three broad.  The chief and her husband
were sitting on skins placed in the middle of a circle thirty paces
in diameter, a little raised above the ordinary level of the ground,
and having a trench round it.  Outside the trench sat about a hundred persons
of all ages and both sexes.  The men were well armed with bows, arrows,
spears, and broadswords.  Beside the husband sat a rather aged woman,
having a bad outward squint in the left eye.  We put down our arms
about forty yards off, and I walked up to the centre of the circular bench,
and saluted him in the usual way by clapping the hands together
in their fashion.  He pointed to his wife, as much as to say,
the honor belongs to her.  I saluted her in the same way,
and a mat having been brought, I squatted down in front of them.

The talker was then called, and I was asked who was my spokesman.
Having pointed to Kolimbota, who knew their dialect best,
the palaver began in due form.  I explained the real objects I had in view,
without any attempt to mystify or appear in any other character than my own,
for I have always been satisfied that, even though there were
no other considerations, the truthful way of dealing with the uncivilized
is unquestionably the best.  Kolimbota repeated to Nyamoana's talker
what I had said to him.  He delivered it all verbatim to her husband,
who repeated it again to her.  It was thus all rehearsed four times over,
in a tone loud enough to be heard by the whole party of auditors.
The response came back by the same roundabout route, beginning at the lady
to her husband, etc.

After explanations and re-explanations, I perceived that our new friends
were mixing up my message of peace and friendship with Makololo affairs,
and stated that it was not delivered on the authority of any one less
than that of their Creator, and that if the Makololo did again
break His laws and attack the Balonda, the guilt would rest with the Makololo
and not with me.  The palaver then came to a close.

By way of gaining their confidence, I showed them my hair,
which is considered a curiosity in all this region.  They said,
"Is that hair?  It is the mane of a lion, and not hair at all."
Some thought that I had made a wig of lion's mane, as they sometimes do
with fibres of the "ife", and dye it black, and twist it so as to resemble
a mass of their own wool.  I could not return the joke by telling them
that theirs was not hair, but the wool of sheep, for they have none of these
in the country; and even though they had, as Herodotus remarked,
"the African sheep are clothed with hair, and men's heads with wool."
So I had to be content with asserting that mine was the real original hair,
such as theirs would have been had it not been scorched and frizzled
by the sun.  In proof of what the sun could do, I compared
my own bronzed face and hands, then about the same in complexion
as the lighter-colored Makololo, with the white skin of my chest.
They readily believed that, as they go nearly naked and fully exposed
to that influence, we might be of common origin after all.
Here, as every where, when heat and moisture are combined, the people
are very dark, but not quite black.  There is always a shade of brown
in the most deeply colored.  I showed my watch and pocket compass,
which are considered great curiosities; but, though the lady
was called on by her husband to look, she would not be persuaded
to approach near enough.

These people are more superstitious than any we had yet encountered;
though still only building their village, they had found time to erect
two little sheds at the chief dwelling in it, in which were placed two pots
having charms in them.  When asked what medicine they contained,
they replied, "Medicine for the Barimo;" but when I rose and looked into them,
they said they were medicine for the game.  Here we saw
the first evidence of the existence of idolatry in the remains of an old idol
at a deserted village.  It was simply a human head carved on a block of wood.
Certain charms mixed with red ochre and white pipe-clay are dotted over them
when they are in use; and a crooked stick is used in the same way for an idol
when they have no professional carver.

As the Leeba seemed still to come from the direction in which we wished to go,
I was desirous of proceeding farther up with the canoes;
but Nyamoana was anxious that we should allow her people
to conduct us to her brother Shinte; and when I explained
the advantage of water-carriage, she represented that her brother
did not live near the river, and, moreover, there was a cataract in front,
over which it would be difficult to convey the canoes.  She was afraid, too,
that the Balobale, whose country lies to the west of the river,
not knowing the objects for which we had come, would kill us.
To my reply that I had been so often threatened with death
if I visited a new tribe that I was now more afraid of killing any one
than of being killed, she rejoined that the Balobale would not kill me,
but the Makololo would all be sacrificed as their enemies.
This produced considerable effect on my companions, and inclined them
to the plan of Nyamoana, of going to the town of her brother
rather than ascending the Leeba.  The arrival of Manenko herself on the scene
threw so much weight into the scale on their side that I was forced
to yield the point.

Manenko was a tall, strapping woman about twenty, distinguished by
a profusion of ornaments and medicines hung round her person;
the latter are supposed to act as charms.  Her body was smeared all over
with a mixture of fat and red ochre, as a protection against the weather;
a necessary precaution, for, like most of the Balonda ladies,
she was otherwise in a state of frightful nudity.  This was not
from want of clothing, for, being a chief, she might have been as well clad
as any of her subjects, but from her peculiar ideas of elegance in dress.
When she arrived with her husband, Sambanza, they listened for some time
to the statements I was making to the people of Nyamoana, after which
the husband, acting as spokesman, commenced an oration, stating the reasons
for their coming, and, during every two or three seconds of the delivery,
he picked up a little sand, and rubbed it on the upper part
of his arms and chest.  This is a common mode of salutation in Londa;
and when they wish to be excessively polite, they bring
a quantity of ashes or pipe-clay in a piece of skin, and, taking up handfuls,
rub it on the chest and upper front part of each arm; others, in saluting,
drum their ribs with their elbows; while others still touch the ground
with one cheek after the other, and clap their hands.  The chiefs go through
the manoeuvre of rubbing the sand on the arms, but only make a feint
at picking up some.  When Sambanza had finished his oration,
he rose up, and showed his ankles ornamented with a bundle of copper rings;
had they been very heavy, they would have made him adopt a straggling walk.
Some chiefs have really so many as to be forced, by the weight and size,
to keep one foot apart from the other, the weight being
a serious inconvenience in walking.  The gentlemen like Sambanza,
who wish to imitate their betters, do so in their walk;
so you see men, with only a few ounces of ornament on their legs,
strutting along as if they had double the number of pounds.
When I smiled at Sambanza's walk, the people remarked, "That is the way
in which they show off their lordship in these parts."

Manenko was quite decided in the adoption of the policy of friendship
with the Makololo which we recommended; and, by way of cementing the bond,
she and her counselors proposed that Kolimbota should take a wife among them.
By this expedient she hoped to secure his friendship,
and also accurate information as to the future intentions of the Makololo.
She thought that he would visit the Balonda more frequently afterward,
having the good excuse of going to see his wife; and the Makololo
would never, of course, kill the villagers among whom
so near a relative of one of their own children dwells.
Kolimbota, I found, thought favorably of the proposition,
and it afterward led to his desertion from us.

On the evening of the day in which Manenko arrived, we were delighted
by the appearance of Mosantu and an imposing embassy from Masiko.
It consisted of all his under-chiefs, and they brought a fine elephant's tusk,
two calabashes of honey, and a large piece of blue baize, as a present.
The last was intended perhaps to show me that he was a truly great chief,
who had such stores of white men's goods at hand that he could afford
to give presents of them; it might also be intended for Mosantu,
for chiefs usually remember the servants; I gave it to him.
Masiko expressed delight, by his principal men, at the return of the captives,
and at the proposal of peace and alliance with the Makololo.
He stated that he never sold any of his own people to the Mambari,
but only captives whom his people kidnapped from small neighboring tribes.
When the question was put whether his people had been in the habit
of molesting the Makololo by kidnapping their servants and stealing canoes,
it was admitted that two of his men, when hunting, had gone
to the Makololo gardens, to see if any of their relatives were there.
As the great object in all native disputes is to get both parties to turn over
a new leaf, I explained the desirableness of forgetting past feuds,
accepting the present Makololo professions as genuine, and avoiding in future
to give them any cause for marauding.  I presented Masiko with an ox,
furnished by Sekeletu as provision for ourselves.  All these people
are excessively fond of beef and butter, from having been accustomed to them
in their youth, before the Makololo deprived them of cattle.
They have abundance of game, but I am quite of their opinion that,
after all, there is naught in the world equal to roast beef, and that
in their love for it the English show both good taste and sound sense.
The ox was intended for Masiko, but his men were very anxious
to get my sanction for slaughtering it on the spot.  I replied
that when it went out of my hands I had no more to do with it.
They, however, wished the responsibility of slaughtering it to rest with me;
if I had said they might kill it, not many ounces would have remained
in the morning.  I would have given permission, but had nothing else to offer
in return for Masiko's generosity.

We were now without any provisions except a small dole of manioc roots
each evening from Nyamoana, which, when eaten raw, produce poisonous effects.
A small loaf, made from nearly the last morsel of maize-meal from Libonta,
was my stock, and our friends from Masiko were still more destitute;
yet we all rejoiced so much at their arrival that we resolved
to spend a day with them.  The Barotse of our party, meeting with
relatives and friends among the Barotse of Masiko, had many old tales to tell;
and, after pleasant hungry converse by day, we regaled our friends with
the magic lantern by night, and, in order to make the thing of use to all,
we removed our camp up to the village of Nyamoana.  This is a good means
of arresting the attention, and conveying important facts
to the minds of these people.

When erecting our sheds at the village, Manenko fell upon
our friends from Masiko in a way that left no doubt on our minds
but that she is a most accomplished scold.  Masiko had, on a former occasion,
sent to Samoana for a cloth, a common way of keeping up intercourse,
and, after receiving it, sent it back, because it had the appearance
of having had "witchcraft medicine" on it; this was a grave offense,
and now Manenko had a good excuse for venting her spleen,
the embassadors having called at her village, and slept in one of the huts
without leave.  If her family was to be suspected of dealing in evil charms,
why were Masiko's people not to be thought guilty of leaving the same
in her hut?  She advanced and receded in true oratorical style,
belaboring her own servants as well for allowing the offense,
and, as usual in more civilized feminine lectures, she leaned over
the objects of her ire, and screamed forth all their faults and failings
ever since they were born, and her despair of ever seeing them become better,
until they were all "killed by alligators".  Masiko's people
followed the plan of receiving this torrent of abuse in silence,
and, as neither we nor they had any thing to eat, we parted next morning.
In reference to Masiko selling slaves to the Mambari, they promised to explain
the relationship which exists between even the most abject of his people
and our common Father; and that no more kidnapping ought to be allowed,
as he ought to give that peace and security to the smaller tribes
on his eastern borders which he so much desired to obtain himself
from the Makololo.  We promised to return through his town
when we came back from the sea-coast.

Manenko gave us some manioc roots in the morning, and had determined
to carry our baggage to her uncle's, Kabompo or Shinte.
We had heard a sample of what she could do with her tongue;
and as neither my men nor myself had much inclination to encounter
a scolding from this black Mrs. Caudle, we made ready the packages;
but she came and said the men whom she had ordered for the service had not
yet come; they would arrive to-morrow.  Being on low and disagreeable diet,
I felt annoyed at this further delay, and ordered the packages
to be put into the canoes to proceed up the river without her servants;
but Manenko was not to be circumvented in this way; she came forward
with her people, and said her uncle would be angry if she did not
carry forward the tusks and goods of Sekeletu, seized the luggage,
and declared that she would carry it in spite of me.  My men succumbed sooner
to this petticoat government than I felt inclined to do, and left me no power;
and, being unwilling to encounter her tongue, I was moving off to the canoes,
when she gave me a kind explanation, and, with her hand on my shoulder,
put on a motherly look, saying, "Now, my little man, just do
as the rest have done."  My feelings of annoyance of course vanished,
and I went out to try and get some meat.

The only game to be found in these parts are the ZEBRA,
the KUALATA or tahetsi (`Aigoceros equina'), kama (`Bubalus caama'),
buffaloes, and the small antelope hakitenwe (`Philantomba').

The animals can be seen here only by following on their trail for many miles.
Urged on by hunger, we followed that of some zebras during the greater part
of the day:  when within fifty yards of them, in a dense thicket,
I made sure of one, but, to my infinite disgust, the gun missed fire,
and off they bounded.  The climate is so very damp, from daily heavy rains,
that every thing becomes loaded with moisture, and the powder
in the gun-nipples can not be kept dry.  It is curious to mark
the intelligence of the game; in districts where they are much annoyed
by fire-arms, they keep out on the most open spots of country they can find,
in order to have a widely-extended range of vision, and a man armed
is carefully shunned.  From the frequency with which I have been allowed
to approach nearer without than with a gun, I believe they know
the difference between safety and danger in the two cases.  But here,
where they are killed by the arrows of the Balonda, they select for safety
the densest forest, where the arrow can not be easily shot.
The variation in the selection of standing-spots during the day may, however,
be owing partly to the greater heat of the sun, for here it is particularly
sharp and penetrating.  However accounted for, the wild animals here do select
the forests by day, while those farther south generally shun these covers,
and, on several occasions, I have observed there was no sunshine
to cause them to seek for shade.

Back to top

Next chapter (16)

This work (David Livingstone, Missionary Travels) is out of copyright, but see the Project Gutenberg legal notice.